My Father (Hanan Anon Edward Gilkes)

My father, I was told, was born in a small settlement on the Demerara River at a place called Dunoon. It would appear, and the name suggests it, that he came from Dutch stock, and since the Dutch were in occupation of the country before the British acquired it, this could well be so.

At that time and place, however, children were not overly curious about genealogical trees, and it was only in my later years that I really began to think seriously of this. Anyhow, by this time, those people who could have supplied any information about him had all passed on, and I was left with no alternative but to out together the various bits and pieces I could gather.

As I said before, my father devoted his life to exploration and was very seldom at home. He would be away in the interior of the country for about a year, come back home to the city of Georgetown where we lived, spend about a month, during which time he would be busily engaged in getting ready and refurnishing another expedition to travel through the jungle and up the various rivers and creeks. This seemed to be the very pattern of his life.

To be perfectly frank, he was almost a stranger to us his children, since we saw him so infrequently, and for such short periods. At the turn of the century, some years before I was born, he struck it quite rich in the diamond fields, and for several years was able to enjoy the fruits of his labours and intrepidity.

He built an imposing home for my mother, who then had just one child, my brother Jack, and for many years this home, called “Roseneath”, was the topic of the town. As I grew up this house was pointed out to me, and to this day it still stands, at the corner of Murray and Thomas Streets as a monument to good architecture, and a memory to the more affluent life my parents enjoyed.

In a turn of the tide of fortune, some years later, the accumulated wealth of my father was all frittered away by future exploration which absorbed his money and proved unsuccessful. But in spite of his change of fortune, my father’s lifestyle remained unchanged. He continued to spend the greater part of his time in the interior, (the bush, we called it) and even after my mother’s death in 1913 he did not give up his devotion to the lust for exploration.Mount Roraima in Guyana
To his credit, he is reputed to have charted many areas in the jungle, and was certainly one of the few people to have visited Mount Roraima, the tri-partite boundary with Brazil, Venezuela and British Guiana. In 1924 my father died in the heart of the jungle he loved so well and was buried, I was told, at a desolate and lonely spot called “San-San-Kopi”. In the vast wilderness that comprises the interior of Guyana - I now use its present name - it was just impossible to ever ascertain the site of his interment.

No comments:

Post a Comment